Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine – [EP]

Saturday, 14 May 2011

When the Guantanamo School of Medicine (GitSOM) released The Audacity Of Hype in 2009, singer Jello Biafra accomplished what many assumed to be impossible: he managed to get the whole world (all of it – not just punk rockers) to begin looking at him as a musician again – not just as “that outspoken social and political critic/satirist Jello Biafra.” He fired all of his guns at once on Hype and the result was phenomenal, but even he would admit that it was a bit like shooting fish; with a Democrat just sworn into office at the time and a good percentage of the world heaving a sigh of relief, Biafra happily pointed out that the result of the election might be a step in the right direction (hence the title of their first LP), but the country was a long way from out of the woods, and he ticked off all the reasons why through the record's run-time. Audacity Of Hype was a triumph – it proved that Biafra was still capable of fighting in his weight class – and now the singer proves he isn't just able to do the job, he's still a contender as he shifts focus away from the federal government and starts dancing with some of the domestic fallout left behind on Enhanced Methods of Questioning – as well as maybe giving a bit of a preview of things to come.

There's no doubt that domestic questions are on Biafra's mind as the EP opens with “Dot Com Monte Carlo” and finds the singer looking no further than his front yard to find an invasion of business-minded, technologically-savvy new-millennial acolytes which are getting so invasive in San Francisco that they've already managed to alter the city's skyline. There is pure, unadulterated rage and disgust in Biafra's voice as he stands back to watch these new drones infiltrate, over-populate and over-develop the city and its streets with no end in sight, like bees in a hive. It's ugly imagery made captivating and anthemic when set as it is next to the thick and raving guitars of Ralph Spight and Kimo Ball, Billy Gould's bass and Jon Weiss' drums, and listeners won't just find themselves singing along as the sonic hooks sink deeper, they'll be envisioning a sold-out audience screaming the first words of the song (“Where do they come from? Why are they here?”) right along with Jello when he bellows them out live on-stage. As soon as that image sets in (it'll make you smile, guaranteed), that's when you'll know for sure that the singer has found the vibes that also appear on every classic song to which he's ever contributed vocals.

From there, the domestic reconnoissance and warfare continues on “The Cells That Will Not Die” which starts out as a chillingly vivid song about cancer but quickly becomes part of an extended metaphor which began with “Dot Com” and continues through the rest of the EP: one that conjures images of dark and powerful forces gone to ground to rebuild reserves of strength. Those forces were defeated, but not destroyed. It's a worrisome thought that makes for some incendiary but thought-provoking music as more badness looms large and Biafra looks at the Desert War veterans who have been deserted during peace time by those they went to the Middle East to defend (“Victory Stinks”), sweet-talking religious-right would-be mind controllers (“Invasion Of The Mind Snatchers”) and the leftovers of the Republican regime including Bob Barr and Newt Gingrich set to make a re-appearance in 2012 (“Miracle Penis Highway”) and lumps them all in together to create a sort of united contingent of domestic dread on the EP.

If simply locking down all the fine points of the band's peace-time drive was all Enhanced Methods of Questioning set out to do, it would certainly be enough to make a satisfying listen, but the chills get still deeper when Biafra and the band turn every musical tenet that listeners think they can hold to be true about Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine and balances them all on their heads for the hidden song which follows “Miracle Penis Highway.” In that hidden track (which could be called “Deviation Street”), Biafra and GitSOM slow right down to a crawl and find the blues for an eighteen-minute extended jam and spoken word reading that laments the pitiful state of a world to come which got there because its inhabitants ignored accountability and squabbled endlessly with each other while their greedy leaders sunk it into poverty and disease.

If Enhanced Methods of Questioning was intended to be a record which encapsulated different dark groups (each with a different purpose) into stellar punk blasts, “Deviation Street” is where the capsules rupture and spill everything out before listeners, and challenging them to clean it up themselves because this band has punched out for the day. It's an incredible end to a surprisingly engrossing EP; Jello and his band have outdone themselves on Enhanced Methods of Questioning, and will have fans salivating to see what they do on their next full-length.


Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine –
"Deviation Street" – Enhanced Methods Of Questioning


The Enhanced Methods of Questioning EP comes out on May 31, 2011 via Alternative Tentacles. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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